Following a long, nerdy first day at Star Wars Celebration in London, we had the chance to chat with Rogue One: A Star Wars Story director Gareth Edwards about one of this year's most anticipated movies.
Check out our rundown on the Rogue One panel here, complete with new poster and behind-the-scenes reel. In that reel we're transported to the new planet Jedha, which definitely seems to be a spiritual place of sorts and home to people who believe in the Force. When we chatted with Edwards, he spoke about Jedha and its importance in the movie.
"Our film, in theory, doesn't have any jedi," Edwards said. "What was so great about what George Lucas did is though he had a story about one thing, there was all these other things in the background and ideas, and for our film we're using that and telling a story within it."
Edwards continued, "For me, it's like if A New Hope is the story of Jesus, there must be a whole religion beyond that. So the Jedi were these leaders of a spiritual belief system, so there's gotta be this mecca — this Jerusalem — within that world. It felt very contemporary to have the Emperor imposing themselves on what felt like the spiritual world of Star Wars, and within that there's this resistance that's building and trying to fight back. So our characters get have to go to Jedha and get pulled into this world."
What was so cool about Jedha and the way they shot it was that the set they created was 360 degrees, which allowed the cast and crew the freedom to move about however they pleased.
"It was beautiful, we went to Jordan to shoot and we built this set within Pinewood that was 360 degrees," Edwards explained. "Even the crew were wearing costumes, so if the cameras were turned around on them you couldn't tell. So we tried to keep it all flowing and the actors were allowed to go where they wanted to, and do the scene in the way it felt right. There was a lot of freedom, and it had this organic, different vibe to it than you would normally associate with Star Wars. I felt like as a fan, I want to just to these places."
Edwards also spoke about how difficult it is within Star Wars to tell a unique story that feels fresh, but also maintains that old-school Star Wars vibe.
"That was such a massive learning experience for me," he said. "If you go slightly to the left, it's not Star Wars — it's just another sci-fi movie. It doesn't feel right. And if you go slightly to the right, you're just copying what George [Lucas] did. So trying to navigate this thing where it's new, but feels fresh, was the dance that was the process of making the film."
So does this planet Jedha refer to the Jedi and the Force. "The whole real backstory of it all is really more a thing for the canon and Lucasfilm, but I feel like it’s definitely—if you believe in the Jedi and you believe in the Force, it feels like Jedha is somewhere you should visit in your lifetime," Edwards said. "It’s like a spiritual home of the Jedi."
But what about Vader?
The brand new Rogue One teaser trailer that screened only for the Celebration crowd ends with Darth Vader's shadow looming over what appears to be a red radar tracker. We wanted to know whether it was difficult to decide how much Darth Vader to use in the movie, considering he's such a classic character.
"He’s got such a gravitational pull, the second he shows up you just get sucked into Darth Vader," Edwards said. "So it was a process to try and figure out how to pepper that in in a way that felt right. I got pulled into making the film through my love of the original films, but then what was a clear conversation that happened early on at Lucasfilm is that we’re doing new things here, this is not a karaoke number or just pure winks and fan service.
"That’s not going to make a good film. This has got to be characters that you care about and there’s an opportunity to create new people and events that pull you in, so hopefully the goal is that you come to the film for all the reasons that we love Star Wars and you get sucked in and start to care about the new people and when you’re in the midst of all that and that’s going on, familiar things start to pass you by, you start to remember “Oh yeah, oh yeah” but the film should exist on it’s own terms. If all these film are ever just 'And here’s that character you love, Yay! Here’s that other character you love, Yay!' All the time, that’s all they’re doing then they’re not really doing what George did, which is he tried to find stories that were about something, that were saying something, that you keep in your pocket forty years later, that stay in your head and are still affecting you."
Rogue One: A Star Wars Story hits theaters on December 16, 2016.